The Storytellers of Tomorrow

The 5th Annual "Storytellers of Tomorrow"
High School Creative Writing Contest

Accepting Entries October 15th through January 15th, 2020

The Ringling College of Art and Design Creative Writing Program was created to support, empower, and honor young writers. It’s an exciting time to be a writer thanks to the increasing number of narrative possibilities that new technologies and media offer. We believe that well-told stories can speak truths and communicate ideas in a way that nothing else can.

To that end, we’re inviting all high-school age students to submit unpublished, original English-language stories of up to 2,000 words in length for the 5th Annual “Storytellers of Tomorrow” Contest. The criteria for earning prizes in this contest is simply overall quality, meaning that well-edited, engaging, and evocative stories have the best chance of winning over the judges.  

Submission Guidelines        Prizes          FAQs        Past Winners


Submission Guidelines

Send your stories as a .doc, .docx, or .pdf attachment through email. Along with your submission, please include:

  • Your full name
  • Your current high school  
  • Your current grade level
  • A few sentences about your background in writing, your hobbies/interests, and/or anything else you’d like to share to give us a stronger sense of who you are

Submission Category 1: Literary Stories
Examples of this type of writing? Short fiction, flash fiction
Examples of writers who work in this vein? Tim O’Brien, O. Henry, John Green, Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, Robert Olen Butler, Amy Tan, Sandra Cisneros, and Lorrie Moore

Submission Category 2: Genre Stories
Examples of this type of writing? Horror stories, fantasy stories, mystery stories, science fiction, thriller stories
Examples of writers who work in this vein? Neil Gaiman, Edgar Allen Poe, J.K. Rowling, Ursula K. Le Guin, George R.R. Martin, Philip K. Dick, and Patricia Highsmith

Submission Category 3: Nonfiction Stories
Examples of this type of writing? Autobiographical essays, personal essay, creative nonfiction (including very well-written, story-based travel writing, nature writing, science writing, and/or biography)
Examples of writers who work in this vein? Lauren Hillenbrand (Unbroken), Jeannette Walls (The Glass Castle), Oliver Sacks (The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat), John Burroughs (“In Mammoth Cave”), Chuck Klosterman (Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs), Jorge Luis Borges (“Blindness”), E.B. White (“Once More to the Lake”), and Annie Dillard (“Seeing”)


Submission Address
(please include “Storytellers of Tomorrow 2020” in the subject line)

Submission Period
October 15, 2019 – Jan 15, 2020
(Winners will be notified in February 2020)

Initial Judges
The Ringling College of Art and Design Creative Writing Program faculty  

Entry Fee

Prizes in Each Category

1st prize:
A Ringling College of Art and Design t-shirt
An iPad
Plus an iPad for the winner’s high school writing teacher’s classroom

2nd prize:
A Ringling College of Art and Design t-shirt

3rd prize:
A Ringling College of Art and Design t-shirt  

Honorable Mentions:
A Ringling College of Art and Design t-shirt



Will the contest entries be published?
The top winner in each category will be offered the opportunity for their work to be published in Shift, the Creative Writing Program’s literary arts journal. Beyond that offer of one-time publication, authors retain all rights to their stories.

What if I win first prize but don’t want my work published?
That’s a decision we will respect.

Can I submit to more than one category?
Yes. Though each piece can only win a prize in a single category so please send different pieces if you’ve like to contend in more than one contest category.

You say you want “unpublished” work. What does that mean?
If you wrote something for a school assignment, that’s fine. If your piece ran in your school newspaper or school literary magazine, that’s fine too.

If your piece ran in a national periodical of any type (USA Today, Reader’s Digest, Boy’s Life, Seventeen, etc.)? That’s published. The same is true with posting your piece in online forums, blogs, and websites (personal ones or Wattpad). And if your piece was included in any textbook or anthology, that too counts as being published.

If you have any questions about this, please email us to ask.

I want to send in something different than a traditional short story. Can I do that?
Absolutely. While many submissions will be traditional short stories, we are also quite open to graphic narratives, scripts, picture book manuscripts, comics, and other literary forms/blends.

I’m a poet. Can I submit a poem?
You may submit anything you choose up to 2,000 words long, though poetry without an extremely strong narrative component likely doesn’t fit well in any of the submission categories. This is primarily a prose narrative contest.

What type of stories/subjects/themes do you want?
That’s entirely up to you, though a familiarity with the genre/style you’re writing in will surely be of help to you.

What are the judges REALLY looking for?
High-quality writing that engages the reader.

What are the common issues with most submissions?
Here are three of the top reasons most entries don’t make the cut.

  1. Failure to follow the contest guidelines
  2. Poor editing/proofreading
  3. Cliché ideas/plots

I’m not an American citizen. Can I still submit?
If you’re a high-school-age student enrolled in a high-school curriculum and you’re writing in English? Yes.

I’m homeschooled. Can I enter the contest?
If you’re a high-school-age student enrolled in a high-school curriculum and you’re writing in English? Yes.

Is Ringling College associated with the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus?
John Ringling was involved with the launching of the institution in 1931, but beyond that, we have no relationship to the circus beyond the association of his name. So the circus’ closing in 2017 had zero effect on Ringling College.

I’ve got a question that doesn’t seem to be answered anywhere. What do I do?  
Send in your question via email to with the subject line “Contest Question.”


2017 Winners

Literary Category

First Place: “Desiccant” by Emily Campbell, Sarasota High School (FL)
Judge’s comments: “I love the lines and the diction in this piece as well as the subtle exchanges between the characters. This story really drew me in.”

Second Place: "Notes from a Review Book” by Janet Song, Ward Melville High School (NY)
Judge’s comments: “This is a very strong piece of writing too where the writer is subtle and draws clear images with very strong words. I walk away from this story feeling the vividness of memory.”

Third Place: "Remains” by Amber Magnuson, South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities (SC)
Judge’s comments: “I’m impressed by the storytelling in this piece and also the specific images and details about the grandfather. This could be the compelling beginning to a much longer narrative where we get to learn more about the principal voice here.”

Honorable Mention:  “En Route” by Hannah Hur, Bergen County Academies (NJ)

Honorable Mention:  “Lost in Thought” by Kush Dhungana, Livingston High School (NJ)

Honorable Mention:  “Jess” by Claire Lee, Canyon Crest Academy (CA)

Honorable Mention:  “A Night on the Town” by Ezra Rhoads, Sarasota High School (FL)

Honorable Mention: “Green Eyes” by Sara Mandelbaum, Riverdale Kingsbridge Academy (NY)

Honorable Mention:  “Between You and Me” by KyKye Knorr, The Academy for Performing Arts (NJ)

Honorable Mention:  “Seven Coins” by Sarah Moloney, Pine View School (FL)

Honorable Mention:  “Midnight” by Markella Paradissis-Wagner, Lakewood Ranch High School (FL)


Genre Category

First Place: “A Pinch of Salt and More Feathers” by Ayana Sofia, New Orleans Center for Creative Arts (LA)
Judge’s comments: “This story grabbed me right away. The narration powerfully moves the story forward. It’s absolutely wonderful.”

Second Place: “The Doomsday Bible” by Dan Hu, Bergen County Academies (NJ)
Judge’s comments: “I’m quickly drawn into this story and its extremely plausible darkness. Very well done.”

Third Place: “The Rogue Android” by Devan Soliman, Northgate High School (CA)
Judge’s comments: “Once again, well-wrought images and language win me over. Also, I’m struck by the persistence of place and setting. Effective writing such as this lures us in with texture, details, and energy. Good job.”

Honorable Mention: "One Helluva Show" by Emily Mayo, New World School of the Arts (FL)

Honorable Mention:  “Gustav Koenraad” by Zing Gee, East Greenwich High School (RI)

Honorable Mention:  “A Beauty Like No Other” by Lola Velez, Ward Melville High School (NY)

Honorable Mention:  “Supernovas” by Julia Li, Polytechnic School (CA)

Honorable Mention:  “The Experiment” by Kiersten Elliott, homeschool


Request Info